The Rocks have as many goalkeepers as they do defenders to select from as they look to reverse a slump in results when they visit Kingstonian on Saturday.
The good news is that first-choice keeper Dan Lincoln is available for the trip after a successful Rocks appeal against the red card he was shown for allegedly handling outside the box in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bostik premier leaders Dorking.
The bad news is that full-back Calvin Davies is the latest defender to join the list of potential long-term injuries and centre-half Gary Charman is also unavailable.
That leaves central defender Chad Field and left-back Joe Tomlinson as the only two out-and-out fit defenders at the club – with utility man Harvey Whyte set to deputise at right-back and midfielder Tommy Block likely to be Field’s central partner against the Ks.
Those moves will in turn weaken the Rocks’ midfield options and manager Jack Pearce is desperately trying to bring in one or two reinforcements before the big festive matches. He said last season’s injury crisis was bad – but this season’s was probably the worst he’d known in all his years at Nyewood Lane.
Since the start of the season the Rocks have lost centre-halves Keaton Wood and Corey Heath to long-term injuries that have still not healed, and Pompey youngster Joe Dandy – brought in on loan as a result – followed them into the treatment room two games into his Bognor spell.
Charman has returned for a fourth spell at the club and has also had back problems, although this weekend’s absence is down to other commitments the Rocks knew about when they signed him.
Now Davies, according to Pearce, is looking at several weeks on the sidelines. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” said an exasperated Pearce. “I’ve never known anything like it. There is no club at our level that could expect to carry on as normal without being affected by the number and scale of injuries we’ve had.
“Despite what some fans seem to think we are trying very, very hard to bring in others to cover and we’ll continue to do so. But we do wonder when our luck will change.”
Bognor will be hoping teenager Block comes back in one piece from his second trial with Scottish Premiership side Hibernian this week, while the injury woes could see goalscoring midfielder Tommy Scutt get a rare start versus Kingstonian.
Pearce was boosted by the successful appeal against Lincoln’s red card. The keeper was sent off for handling the ball outside the area but should only have gone if he had denied Dorking a clear scoring opportunity. Pearce said: “We were confident the video showed we had a strong case.”
Ironically the free-kick - given despite Lincoln’s protests that the ball was marginally inside the area, not just outside – was converted for the only goal of the game.
It was another afternoon when missed one-on-one chances cost the Rocks dear and Pearce and coach Robbie Blake have pledged to keep working to give their forwards the confidence to start converting.
Coach Blake felt the Rocks were the better team in the first half against Dorking and gave 110 per cent when down to ten men in the second half. But he said they again paid the price for failing to take decent chances. He felt sympathy for Lincoln for the incident that saw him sent off and said the defeat was not down to that.
Blake said the next few games needed to bring an upturn in results. “We can pick the boys up but it’s got to come from within too. They need to stick together and we saw in the second half against Dorking, they do stick together,” he said.
Blake defended the decision to substitute Mason Walsh when they needed to bring on reserve keeper Ricardo Texeira, a change that proved unpopular with fans, saying the winger had to be sacrificed to keep a solid formation and give themselves a chance of staying in the game and rescuing a point after half-time.
And Blake said the aim now was to take the fighting spirit shown in the second half last Saturday into big tests away to Kingstonian this Saturday and at Worthing a week later.
The ex-Pompey coach caused alarm last week when he added to comments about turning results around by saying ‘if I’m still here’. Asked about that after the Dorking defeat, he reiterated it was a results business – and results needed to improve. But he added: “I love the football club and I want to get it right and believe I will get it right with Jack,” he said. “I want to be here for a long time and I want to be successful.
“I firmly believe the club is in a good place. Results have been disappointing in recent weeks but we’ve had a lot of injuries and some bad luck. We’re hoping once we get people back fit, we will be okay.”